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Major Union cavalry raid in Virginia


Hugh Judson KilpatrickFebruary 28, 1864, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick launched a major Union cavalry raid, leading 3,500 troops south from Stevensburg, Virginia. The raid was aimed at Richmond, where he hoped to free Federal prisoners, as well as spread word of President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. The hope was to convince Confederates to lay down their arms.

This proclamation, which was singed in December of 1863, offered a pardon and restoration of property (excepting slaves, who’d already been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation) to all Confederates. Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren assisted Kilpatrick in the effort to conduct the prisoner release. Kilpatrick covered the colonel with the main force. Union infantry, under General John Sedgwick, and another cavalry detachment under General George Custer, were to feign an attack toward western Virginia in order to distract attention.

dahlgrenAfter crossing the Rappahannock, the forces split . Kilpatrick tore up the Virginia Central Railroad and Dahlgren approached Richmond from the west. They planned to rendezvous on the outskirts of the city. Kilpatrick arrived March 1. Confederate General Wade Hampton’s cavalry was in hot pursuit. Dahlgren was delayed because a guide led him to a deep section of the James River, where there was no possibility of crossing. Dahlgren hanged the guide on the spot.

Kilpatrick suffered about 335 men killed, captured, or wounded. The raid accomplished little for the Union and the Confederate victory lifted Southern morale.

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